Thursday, January 7, 2016

Crewman Down!

We are anchored in Daytona Beach, off the ICW channel just south of the "twin bridges" of Seabreeze and Oakridge Boulevards (map). It was a long five-plus hour cruise, made longer by the fact that Vector is most of a crewmember short. Also, we had consistent 15-knot winds throughout the day, making driving a chore.

Tuesday evening, as I was sitting here wrapping up my last blog post, a scream emanated from below decks. My laptop shot across the room as I leapt up and raced down the companionway to find Louise writhing in pain on the stateroom sole. Apparently, on her way downstairs and into the master stateroom, she sprained her right foot.

This is incredibly easy to do aboard Vector, as the main companionway ends at a landing that is a very slightly different level than the staterooms at either end of it (which are not at the same level as each other, for that matter). I've hit my head more than once by bypassing the landing and stepping onto one of the thresholds, and we've both tripped on the weird-height thresholds numerous times. It does not take much to miss by just so much and twist your foot in the process.

After ascertaining that no bones were broken, we got Louise onto the bed, immediately elevated the foot, and applied ice packs, and I brought her 800mg of ibuprofen, which is both an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory. We continued rotating ice packs all evening while keeping the foot above heart level, and that seems to have staved off most of the more serious consequences.

Nevertheless, the foot is essentially out of commission, which means Vector's boatswain is also mostly out of commission. We can't dock, nor can Louise go ashore in the tender. We can anchor, which is an operation that can be completed single-handed, if need be. We're icing the injury three times a day, keeping a maintenance dosage of ibuprofen, and elevating as needed.

It did not help that we were hit with a Nor'easter Tuesday night that tested our ground tackle as well as the securement of myriad items on deck. Our Bruce anchor and heavy chain rode has never failed us in these conditions, and we did not move despite gusts of 35+kt on a relatively short scope. The same could not be said for some unfortunate souls in St. Augustine, whence we had just come -- the sailboat that was literally on the mooring right next to us when we were there came loose in the middle of the night and crashed into the Bridge of Lions -- we heard the Mayday call at 4:30am. We later learned that two other boats there came loose and went aground. At 3:30am I awoke to a mighty crash, which was one of our heavy teak deck chairs toppling over in the wind.

The wind continued unabated well into the morning, and we ruminated about getting under way, especially with Louise's condition. Ultimately we decided that we were well within our comfort zone to weigh anchor in the wind, even short-handed, and we'd be better off moving along to a spot closer to services, should we need them.

We had a bit of role-reversal, with Louise manning the helm while I went on deck in the wind and the rain to raise the anchor. Louise graciously lent me her ankle-length raincoat for the task. It all went fairly smoothly, but we managed to skip some checklist items in the role-change confusion -- some of the blinds were still closed when we got moving, and we ran all day with the anchor day shape still deployed.

Stylish. Women are used to men's clothing, but the reverse, not so much. I fumbled with the zipper longer than normal...

I quickly took over the helm once the anchor was decked, so that I could negotiate the tricky passage out of the anchorage and through one of the most notorious shoals on all of the Florida ICW, at very nearly low tide. Fortunately, we had a good track from our last transit and saw nothing less than nine feet MLLW here, even though boats have been grounding almost daily.

Other than two more shoaling spots, the rest of the day was routine and almost boring, and we arrived in Daytona Beach a bit shop-worn just after 4:30. We were more than happy to drop anchor at the first opportunity, even though we seem to be in the derelict-boat ghetto, with at least two sunken hulks in direct sight and a half dozen boats of questionable seaworthiness nearby. By late afternoon Louise was moving around well enough to station herself on the foredeck and work the windlass while I maneuvered the boat.

With no opportunity to get ashore, and nothing pre-planned and started for dinner, we ended up grilling a couple of burgers, which we keep in the freezer for just this reason. I spent a good part of the evening looking at charts and trying to adjust our short-term plans according to circumstance.

Today, rather than tax ourselves more than necessary, we ended up staying put. I had two critical maintenance projects to tackle, and I started in on the more pressing of the two: the anchor roller. A couple of days ago, while we were weighing anchor, Louise noticed that one of the two rollers that support the chain as it goes over the bow had literally split in two, with the chain links now rubbing directly on the axle that supports the roller. If we keep this up, the axle itself, a custom brass item, will be cut in half.

I purchased a replacement roller from the local chandlery in Vilano Beach before we left. The roller, like its predecessor which I purchased a couple of years ago, has a 1/2" hole, whereas we have a 5/8" axle. I remember drilling out the last one to accommodate the axle before installing it. Try as I might, though, I could not find a 5/8" drill in my kit. We were at Deltaville Boatyard when I did this the last time, and it occurs to me I might have borrowed a drill for the task.

No problem, there is an Ace Hardware and a Harbor Freight here, both an easy bike ride from a convenient dock. Alas, the other critical maintenance item involves the tender, which has been acting up for the past few days. I'd better get that fixed before I try to go ashore.

The tender motor has been running OK at operating speeds, but in the last week it's started to sound rough at idle, and has died more than once as I dropped the throttle to idle when approaching a dock or the boat. Just what we needed when we had guests aboard, relying on the tender to get everyone back and forth. The tender issue was a key factor in our decision to just bring the big boat to the dock at Vilano Beach to get everyone ashore; I had visions of what it would be like to have the tender die mid-river with four souls and a bunch of luggage aboard.

I'd been thinking this was a carburetor issue, until a couple of days ago, when I turned the key and the engine refused to start. There was no clicking of relays, either, and the fuel gauge was not coming on, so it now looked like an electrical problem. Fortunately, our motor has an old-fashioned pull-start cord, too, and we were able to get the tender running with just a couple of jerks of the cord. Without a working gauge, we carried some extra gas in a jerry can, and I resolved to work on the problem as soon as the wind let up and I could work outside safely and comfortably.

So this afternoon I headed up to the boat deck, meter in hand, and in short order discovered that a connector in the wire which supplies power from the motor to the helm console had corroded completely through. In the process of diagnosing this, I also discovered that the hull was full of water up to the sole plate, and the automatic bilge pump was not coming on.

What should have been a ten minute fix to replace one connector ended up being a three hour project, as I emptied all the now-soggy items from under the seat, removed the garboard plug to drain perhaps a dozen gallons of water from the boat, and tracked down the issue with the bilge pump. It was such a slimy mess in there that I first fired up our pressure washer and gave the inside of the under-seat locker, which holds the battery, wiring harness, fuel filter, and bilge pump, in addition to stowed gear, a thorough cleaning.

The bilge pump issue turned out to be yet another connector corroded completely through. This one was a "waterproof" butt connector buried in slit-loom in a factory harness that Novurania, in its infinite wisdom, located at a point in the bilge that was guaranteed to get wet. The slit loom served to trap the water at the worst possible spot.

I'm pleased to report that the tender is once again fully operational, but by the time I had it done and in the water, I really missed my window to go to the hardware store for a drill bit. It looks like we'll be here most of tomorrow, too, so I can get the anchor roller fixed before we need to use it again.

It is said that cruising is just a euphemism for fixing your boat in new and interesting locations. Welcome to Daytona Beach.


  1. Sean, I've heard that pampering and chocolate in the proper doses can be quite effective in such situations. Hmmmmm


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